VALENCIA, SPAIN, October 24 — Much was expected from Letesenbet Gidey’s half-marathon debut; after all she is the WR holder for 5000 and 10,000 on the track, but few pundits were expecting her to smash both the 64- and 63-minute barriers in one go.
However, the Ethiopian star became the first since Norwegian great Ingrid Kristiansen to hold WRs at all three distances when she flew around the super-fast circuit in the Mediterranean city before stopping the clock at 62:52. Her performance took a massive 1:10 off the previous record set by Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich in İstanbul back in April. (Kristiansen, whose range as a record holder included the marathon, added the half standard in 1987 before WA officially ratified road WRs)
Gidey started off by cruising through the first 5K in 15:00, well inside WR pace, and then just kept on churning out sub-3:00 kilometers over the next 5K stretch before reaching 10K in 29:45, remarkably the fourth-fastest time for the distance on the roads and just 7 seconds shy of the recent WR of 29:38 by Kalkidan Gezahegne.
She was also 36 seconds faster than Chepngetich’s split in İstanbul. The question now in everybody’s mind was, “Could Gidey keep up her relentless tempo over the second half of the race?”
As it happened, far from faltering, she even cranked it up a fraction and passed 15K in 44:29, a mere 9 seconds slower than her own world best for that distance.
Having not run competitively more than 15K, and despite the fact that she was a picture in running fluidity and calm composure, there was still a slight concern about whether Gidey would struggle in the final quarter of the race but she later revealed that she had been covering up to 30K in training runs and never had any doubts about having enough in the tank in the closing stages of the race.
“I never thought that the pace was too fast, I trained hard to run 3:00 kilometers for the distance,” Gidey reflected after the race.
As a measure of her achievement — putting to one side all the debate about the effect that the current generation of high-tech shoes are having on road times — not since Grete Waitz took 1:19 off Joan Benoit’s best from the previous year when she ran 69:57 in the ’82 Gothenburg Half has the world best for the distance been reduced by such a prodigious margin.
Spare a thought as well for Gidey’s compatriot Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who stayed with her through the early stages but was running her own solitary race for 2nd from 9K.
Yehualaw, who was 2nd to Chepngetich in Turkey in 64:40, was told two days before this race that her apparent WR of 63:44 in Northern Ireland in August was not going to be ratified because the course was 54m short. She still ran 63:51 —also breaking the former WR — in Valencia but found herself coming home almost a minute behind the winner.
The men’s race was slightly overshadowed by Gidey’s feat but was a superb spectacle in itself, with 7 going under 59:00 for the first time.
Kenya’s Abel Kipchumba, who led this year’s world lists prior to the race with 58:48 after winning the Herzogenaurach Half in Germany only 6 weeks earlier, took the honors in 58:07 after outsprinting his training partner and race favorite Rhonex Kipruto over the final 300m to win by 2 seconds. They moved to Nos. 6 & 7 on the all-time list.
The 10K checkpoint was reached in 27:35, just slightly outside WR pace, but an injection of pace by another Kenyan, Daniel Mateiko, between 11 and 14 kilometers kept hopes alive that Kibiwott Kandie´s time of 57:32 in Valencia last December was beatable — although the course had been radically altered this year — and a group of six was still together as 15K was passed in 41:16, just six seconds outside Kandie’s time.
However, with some serious prize money at stake topped by a check for €35,000 (c$40K) it was noticeable that there was some hesitancy in the leading group about pushing the pace over the following 3K until Kipchumba started to surge from around 18K.
With 600m to go, Kipruto got in front and looked like he was going to be the winner of the head-to-head duel but Kipchumba gritted his teeth, got back in contention and then pulled away from his friend in the final furlong.
“I know Rhonex very well and I knew that if it came down to a sprint in the final few hundred meters, I had the speed to beat him,” said Kipchumba.
Kipruto, who produced the world’s fastest debut over the distance when he ran 57:49 for 3rd here last year, finished 2nd this time in 58:09 while Mateiko reduced his personal best by 59 seconds when he came home 3rd in 58:26.
VALENCIA HALF-MARATHON RESULTS
1. Abel Kipchumba (Ken) 58:07 PR (WL) (6, 6 W); 2. Rhonex Kipruto (Ken) 58:09 (x, 7 W); 3. Daniel Mateiko (Ken) 58:26 PR (9, 10 W);
4. Kennedy Kimutai (Ken) 58:28 PR; 5. Philemon Kiplimo (Ken) 58:34; 6. Muktar Edris (Eth) 58:40 PR; 7. Mathew Kimeli (Ken) 58:43 PR; 8. Kelvin Kiptum (Ken) 59:02; 9. Rodgers Kwemoi (Ken) 59:16 PR; 10. Felix Kipkoech (Ken) 59:28; 11. Collins Koros (Ken) 60:06 PR; 12. Amanal Petros (Ger) 60:09 NR; 13. Ibrahim Hassan (Dji) 60:10 NR; 14. Sondre Nordstad Moen (Nor) 60:15; 15. Gabriel Gerald Geay (Tan) 60:16; 16. Emmanuel Maru (Ken) 60:16 PR; 17. Carlos Mayo (Spa) 60:58; 18. Frank Lara (US) 61:00 PR (AL) (=8, x A); 19. Hamid Ben Daoud (Spa) 61:05 PR; 20. Félix Bour (Fra) 61:32 PR.
(best-ever mark-for-place: 6–10)
1. Letesenbet Gidey (Eth) 62:52 WR (old WR 64:02 Ruth Chepngetich [Ken] ’21);
2. Yalemzerf Yehualaw (Eth) 63:51 PR (2, 2 W; faster than old WR); 3. Sheila Kiprotich (Ken) 64:54 PR (9, 12 W);
4. Brenda Jepleting (Ken) 65:44 PR; 5. Bosena Mulate (Eth) 66:00 PR; 6. Tesfaye Nigsti Haftu (Eth) 66:17 PR; 7. Hawi Feysa (Eth) 67:25; 8. Sarah Lahti (Swe) 68:19 NR; 9. Fionnuala McCormack (Ire) 69:32 PR; 10. Camilla Richardsson (Fin) 70:51 PR. (best-ever mark-for-place: 1–2) ◻︎